Magazine article Marketing

Reaching the Pink Pound

Magazine article Marketing

Reaching the Pink Pound

Article excerpt

Only companies that nurture a genuine relationship with the gay community will see the benefits, writes Andy Fry

Describe your dream consumer. If it is something like "trend-setting, affluent with no dependents and likely to spend significant proportions of disposable income on travel, fashion and entertainment", then the chances are you have a strong potential market within the gay community.

What's more, those characteristics, identified in the recent report 'In The Pink?' from marketing consultants Grey Matter, are backed up by the cash to make them count. Various estimates put the value of the gay market between [pounds]6bn and [pounds]8bn.

In a 1995 readership survey conducted by Gay Times, it was found that average income among gays was [pounds]17,000 a year, while the average gay household brought in [pounds]36,000. This is considerably more than the typical straight family unit. The Gay Times' survey also found that 77% of its readers are ABC1s, against a 43% proportion of the general population.

Having said that, there are potential pitfalls in marketing to the gay community. 'In The Pink?' warns: "Gay consumers have diverse characteristics. Being gay may influence their purchasing decisions, but it does not mean that every gay consumer is the same."

The report goes further by saying: "Even though gays cannot be regarded as a community of consumers, they can represent their community interest through their spending power." In other words, they may not all buy the same products but they can and will boycott a company they regard as exploitative, hypocritical or insensitive.

Any discussion about marketing to the gay community needs to make a basic distinction between mainstream brands that have a gay customer base and businesses that are specifically targeted at the gay community.

Many of the latter tend to deal in areas where the gay community has been let down or neglected. Financial advisers such as Ivan Massow & Associates have filled an important niche in areas such as mortgages and insurance, where mainstream companies tend to advise incorrectly or overcharge gay customers.

In the Grey Matter report, Ivan Massow says: "Nearly everyone who comes to me has lost their mortgage because of [bad advice] and come out of the affair losing hundreds of pounds on survey fees, as well as feeling thoroughly embarrassed and intimidated."

Other areas successfully serving gay consumers include legal advice, taxi companies, accommodation agencies, housing developments, travel agencies and funeral and homecare services. All are marked out by a clear, understanding of what the gay consumer wants.

Last year, Eric Crespin set up a gay-exclusive holiday company called Alternative Holidays after researching the more developed market in the US.

He began by launching European Gay Ski Week, which catered to 400 clients. The success of that venture has encouraged him to run four separate gay-exclusive holidays this year, linking up with Club Med and Kuoni.

"For Gay Ski Week I created a package by chartering a week at a Club Med resort," he says. "I hired gay entertainment and put a mark-up on the regular price. If you are providing products for the gay community, you have to go all the way. You can't patronise them, they'll see through it."

Crespin's success is borne out by the repeat business he has achieved. "If you do something properly, word of mouth works very well. Gays and lesbians talk a lot about issues that concern them and are an easy market to reach through magazines like Gay Times, Attitude and Diva. Hooper's Hooch did a lot of PR in the gay community and brands like Diesel and Calvin Klein have done well by identifying with it."

Integrity and commitment

For the mainstream advertiser, targeting the gay community is more problematic. According to Paul Phillips, who handles display advertising on Gay Times: "A lot of companies are aware of the nature of the gay market but think their mainstream advertising will reach them. …

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